Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why Do I Love Cooking and Eating?

It makes me remember. Sensations, pleasures, fleeting memories. Happy, exciting times. Special, personal moments. It makes me adventurous. Throwing caution to the wind as I embrace new textures, new tastes. It unleashes the creative in me, in anyone who attempts to please both eye and palate. Most of all, it makes me believe in something better.

Food is transformative. I see something bright green and sprightly wilt ever so slowly under the influence of heat and steam, turning a raw vegetable into one of slightly crunchy goodness. I visualize pink turning white, red turning pink, grill marks seared on flesh as if branded and possessed. I struggle to contain my excitement at the intoxicating sight of seafood curling up or ever so slightly shrinking, as if afraid of the heat but tamed by it.

I am witness to ordinary, almost unwanted cuts of meat absorbing the colors of the sauce they're cooked in -- deep tomato red, dark earthy brown, creamy blushing pink, bright sunny yellow, virginal blinding white, milky chocolate brown; absorbing the flavors of wine, onion, butter, or cream, stock, garlic, or tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar or any one of a myriad ingredients that have the power to convert plain into magnificent.

Only the delicate art of frying can turn flimsy and yielding into crackling and bold, full of confidence and swagger, curling up as it swims in bubbling oil, each second making it crispier, crunchier, more appetizing to shatter in one's mouth.

To observe a soft, pliable, homely piece of dough rising, and becoming a hunk of chewy, oven-baked receptacle for any number of spreads, jams, butters, pates and thick chowders is a solemn experience. To inhale the wondrous scent of pastries, cakes and breads baking is a moment unmatched.

How folding ribbons of batter, composed of earth's simplest treasures, become a cake, that, after some window dressing, metamorphose into something dreamy, elegant, pretty, decadent and delightful is a mystery, a result of science and magic and yes, a fair sprinkling of fairy dust.

From spartan to ornate, from unsightly to mouthwatering, cooking and baking wield the power of alchemy, and is the driving force behind the optimism and hope I harbor within me.